What does a city on the Spanish Costa Blanca with a good 300,000 inhabitants have to offer in order to be on a par with the „Eternal City“ Rome and its ten times as many inhabitants? I will tell you the answer to this question later. First of all we wanted to have a close look at Alicante and form our own opinion about it.
„Mein Schiff“ parks almost directly in front of the old town, nevertheless a shuttle bus drives us to the harbour entrance. And already our hiking day begins. But wait, there is someone standing in the harbour basin, a really tough guy! The artist Esperanza d’Ors has put a bronze Icarus in the water and called her work „The Return of Icarus with his Surf Wing„.
I do not want to surf today, and Grizzlys do not have any wings either. If I had, I could almost have used them today, because we would later go high up – to the castle „Castillo de Santa Bárbara„, one of the biggest castle areas of Europe. Already in the Bronze Age, people lived there; later Iberians, Romans and Moors took advantage of the strategically interesting location on the 166 meter high mountain Benacantil. Castilian and English troops also occupied the castle at times. Later it served as a prison. What an eventful history!
I had to go there, and the most comfortable way up according to an insider tip is a … elevator! Since the insider tip is probably not an Insider anymore, a long queue expected us at the entrance to the elevator. So my people and I took a walk through the city instead. Through narrow lanes the way first led to the town hall with its impressive forecourt. Inside, a surprise awaited us: No, not the golden sculpture of Salvadore Dali, which is photographed by all tourists. Two meters away is Spain’s zero point on the first step of the town hall staircase, determining the height of zero above sea level. For more than 100 years this has been the reference point for all altitude data in the Spanish country.
Leaving the town hall we were greeted by a bust of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. The local university operates the largest Spanish-speaking virtual library called „Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes„, and this even with access for all and being free of charge.
The way continues to the concathedral San Nicolas de Bari. Its construction began in 1600, in Renaissance style. I especially liked the dome and the altar.
Slowly my hunger gnaws at me. Earlier we already passed a really nice restaurant – the courtyard looked very noble with finely set tables and red anthuriums in chic vases. But unfortunately it was still closed. Finally we went to the market of Alicante, of which unfortunately we have only a photo from outside. As I said, much too hungry!
But before we can enjoy what we have bought, we suddenly stand in front of the steep ramps leading up to the castle. They start right next to the market. So we still walked up the 30 minutes; in the blazing heat of the sun, but with wonderful views. The path also led through a small settlement of white houses that nestled close to the mountainside. This reminded me of the villages of the Cinque Terre in Italy.
With arriving at the castle we were still not on top of the mountain . The castle stretches over several meters of altitude and floors, long winding walls with gates and passages show their former defensive strength. In the areas between the walls there are wonderfully old trees: waving palms, proud cypresses and wind defying pines. The ruins of the former Chapel of Saint Barbara, with their round arches still preserved, also stretch out into the steel blue sky of Alicante. What a postcard weather!
Finally we now ate the Empanadas, we bought at the market. At the almost highest point of the castle we looked for a spot in the shade and tasted them, right next to the iron gentleman with the crossbow in the stroke.
For the downhill trip we used the elevator, in this direction it even is free of charge. The promenade at the seaside with its beautiful wave pattern inspired us just as much as the pretty, well maintained beach. Costa Blanca – that is true!
Before we go back to „Mein Shiff“, of course I would like to answer the question about Rome. There is a Spanish proverb: „No se hizo Alicante en un solo instante“, which means „Alicante was not built in a single day either“. All right?
Sunny greetings from
your very ferocious Grizzly